The more we play Mirror's Edge, the more confused we become, and it's hard to pen this preview without coming across as ever- so-slightly schizophrenic.
It's a title that elicits conflicting emotions. Visually, the clean, stark style, bursting with red, green, orange and blue hues, is achingly beautiful, while the way these colours end up sub-consciously informing your route is magic. The animation is slick; the adrenaline-fuelled locomotion utterly compelling. When it works, Mirror's Edge really, seriously works.
See? It'd be so easy to evangelise DICE's effort as the most visionary game in years - taking those mouldy FPS blueprints, daring to dump the 'S' bit almost entirely and sculpting the remains into the snazziest piece of origami you've ever clapped your sceptical peepers on. The sense of elation you feel as parkour-empowered heroine Faith ploughs across the utopian skyline, leaping over obstacles like a gazelle and sailing through space with a tigerish grace, is tricky to encapsulate.
Then Faith suddenly collides with an obstacle, gets stuck or plunges to her death, and the free-flowing illusion is shattered into millions of jagged shards. Sadly, when Mirror's Edge doesn't work, it really doesn't work. The weak-o textures don't bear scrutiny at close quarters; Faith feels sluggish and impotent when she isn't moving at speed; failing to solve a puzzle instantaneously often elicits major frustrations; getting stuck into the (infrequent) gun combat makes you realise how insubstantial the combat engine is... it's a real mixed bag.
FAITH AND A .45
In a way, Faith's adventure could be interpreted as representing a metaphorical dilemma for the state of the games industry. Do we abandon all cynicism and embrace it like some long-lost love child, zealously plugging it in the hopes it'll inspire yet more design revolutions? Or peel back the layers of gossamer-thin gameplay and unmask Mirror's Edge for the one-trick pony it seems to be?
Our overriding feeling is that, for all DICE's efforts, this brand of first-person free-running is simply too flimsy to work as a 'proper' game. For instance, as an aside to Quantum of Solace it'd be brilliant. Here, it feels too empty. The devs have also missed a trick with the lack of multiplayer; surely real time head-to-head rooftop races were what it was made for?
We're pooping the party somewhat then, but we're still in awe of Mirror's Edge. It's brave, stylish and - crucially - different; a real poster child for the rebirth of EA's design philosophies. But, we're lucky enough to play it gratis, and enjoying something in the office is one thing - recommending you all go out and buy it is quite another. So, until, we've actually finished the thing for next month's review, we're staying just a little cynical. Sorry for the lack of Faith, DICE.
Set to divide opinion like never before, at her best Faith feels as if she's forging new first-person gaming ground with every fresh footfall. Yet it's impossible to shake that pervading 'tech demo' vibe - and with later levels promising more puzzling and less leaping, it's hard to shake our niggling reservations...